Naomi: In Fashion — How the V&A captured the supermodel’s four decades of flawless style

Tempus speaks to the curators of Naomi: In Fashion about bringing the most stunning fashion moments of Naomi Campbell, many from her own personal archives, to the V&A

Naomi In Fashion. Picture credit: Steven MeiselThe words ‘fashion icon’ are often thrown out too liberally. But when it comes to Naomi Campbell and her legacy of four decades in the fashion industry, those words don’t even come close to covering it. And that is what the Victoria and Albert Museum in London has brought to life with its latest exhibition, Naomi: In Fashion.

This is the first exhibition of its kind, with curators at the V&A collaborating with Naomi Campbell to produce this retrospective look at the model’s career. The exhibition features ensembles from the model’s own personal archives, as well as her most iconic fashion moments like her look from Sarah Burton’s last Alexander McQueen show, the pink Valentino ensemble she wore at the 2019 Met Gala and a pair of staggeringly high Vivienne Westwood platform shoes from her famous 1993 catwalk fall.Naomi: In Fashion, which opens on 22 June, takes us through a journey of the supermodel’s legacy, with designs from Azzedine Alaïa, Burberry, Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana, Gianni and Donatella Versace, Jean Paul Gaultier, John Galliano, Karl Lagerfeld, Virgil Abloh, Vivienne Westwood, Yves Saint Laurent and many others featured prominently throughout the exhibition. There is also a selection of photography curated by Edward Enninful as well as a spotlight on her lifelong mentors.

We spoke to Sonnet Stanfill, senior curator of fashion at the V&A, to learn more about the exhibition, what it was like to collaborate with Naomi Campbell and bringing fashion history to life.

Related: Luxury auction house Christie’s to host a Vivienne Westwood sale seriesNaomi in FashionNaomi Campbell is a pioneer in the world of fashion. Can you please talk us through how this exhibition came to life? What do you hope to convey to the world with Naomi: In Fashion?
The V&A holds the national collection of textiles and fashion — one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of dress in the world. The exhibition is a great opportunity to explore the contribution and impact of an individual model in the fashion industry, and to explore some of the designers, photographers and other industry players with whom she has collaborated. 

The exhibition is produced in collaboration with Naomi Campbell and foregrounds her voice and perspective. It draws upon Campbell’s own extensive wardrobe of haute couture and ready-to-wear ensembles from key moments in her career along with loans from designer archives and objects from the V&A’s collections.

For someone who is not well versed in the world of fashion, what can they expect from this exhibition?
The exhibition charts Naomi Campbell’s career through clothes and image, from her south London roots, to the supermodel era, right up to the present day. Her career represents almost forty years in the business and counting.  A trailblazer in the field, her celebrated ability to ‘walk’ the catwalk, along with the special alchemy she creates with every major fashion house, publication and photographer she works with, is captured within this project. At the same time, Campbell’s cultural leadership activism and championing of emerging designers transcend the traditional parameters of the fashion model role.

On display you’ll see key pieces from across her career, such as the 1989 Thierry Mugler car-inspired corset, as well as some of Campbell’s recent collaborations, including a gorgeous evening gown designed by Malaysian design-duo Rizman Ruzaini. There will also be an AV photography installation curated by Edward Enninful.

Related: Royal Ascot creative director Daniel Fletcher on the art of race day dressingNaomi in Fashion exhibitionThe exhibition takes us through her entire career in fashion through fashion. It is one of a kind. Can you talk a bit about that?
This is the first major exhibition to look at the contribution of an individual model through fashion. It explores her many collaborations with designers, and design houses, throughout her career, from Yves Saint Laurent to Alexander McQueen. It also explores her work with people in many other facets of the industry, from photographers to stylists and make-up artists. Honed throughout her career, Campbell has a unique insight into the fashion industry and the design and creation of the pieces on display. We have conducted interviews with Naomi Campbell about many of the garments on display and extracts from this will be woven into the exhibition text and soundscape. 

What was it like working with Naomi on this exhibition? Are there any anecdotes you can share?
It’s been a pleasure working with Naomi Campbell on this exhibition. She’s been extremely generous with her time, sharing stories about the garments in her wardrobe and anecdotes about her career. She also curated the music selections that you hear throughout the exhibition. Music is very important to her, and she wanted to ensure that it resonated in tandem with fashion. This adds an incredible richness to the exhibition narrative, giving new insights into the designers and designs on display.

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